By Esther Yap
Given such a formidable subject, it’s needless to say that Phyllida Lloyd (Mamma Mia!) had her work cut out for her when she signed on to direct The Iron Lady. While this film succeeds as a platform to showcase the mastery of Meryl Streep in the titular role, The Iron Lady, depicting the life and times of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, it doesn’t quite capture the person beneath the politician.
The film opens with a dementia-stricken Thatcher having an imaginary conversation with her late husband, Denis (Jim Broadbent) as she wanders around her apartment. Flashing back and forth to her years in office, the juxtaposition of her glory days and her decline into dementia makes for a poignant narrative structure, but too much of a good thing can hurt a story: The Iron Lady traipses from drama into melodrama.
Whether or not viewers agree with the portrayal of Thatcher’s actions both in and outside her career, it’s an intriguing tale no doubt. Welsh actress Alexandra Roach plays the young Thatcher, an ambitious grocer’s daughter rising up the political ranks to take on union strikes, bombings and wars.
Streep, buoyed by a great make-up and costume team, delivers a pitch-perfect performance that lends the movie much of its weight—with her eyes alone she conveys the exceptionality of Thatcher’s inner strength. What would have made this a truly memorable outing is greater insight into Thatcher’s heart and mind, and a deeper exploration of the motivation that carried her to such great heights. But for those who have never known much about her, this is a good starting point.